Chapter 8 of Acts is a pivotal chapter. Death changes things. Stephen was the first to die, in a savage ‘mob rule’ attack. This changed the rules and the Christians became fair game.
This may have seemed like a disaster, but God was building his kingdom and he would not be stopped. Christ has established his disciples with the Great Commission – to take the gospel to all nations. Signs and wonders – miracles – intensified. The cords of fellowship strengthened, that bound together the believers in fellowship.
Simon the sorcerer thought he could buy all this and attain fame and power. He had no idea about the true meaning, purpose and self sacrifice inherent in the gospel. God looks at the heart, not on outward appearance.
Stephen delivers an empowered speech, in faith tracing the story of God’s grace to his people from Abraham onwards. An overriding theme was that God’s most devout followers made him the Lord of their lives.
We see this in Joseph, who became the vessel of God’s salvation during a time of famine, and in Moses, who led the captive Israelites out of servitude in Egypt. Having led the Jews to safety, Moses was then rejected by the people, who turned to false gods. In a similar way, says Stephen, first century Jews were rejecting the Holy Lamb of God: Jesus, the one true Saviour and Lord.
We must treasure Jesus, pursue him, fill our minds and hearts with his gospel. Whatever the cost, whatever the consequences, he is worthy and his way is the only way worth pursuing. There is no other name by which we can be saved
The gospel was being proclaimed, Christians were facing and dealing with issues of poverty, and persecution was among them. In this environment, God blessed and used the new church powerfully. In Acts 6 we learn:
We are to be prepared
Our lives as Christians should be marked by good deeds (though these do not themselves gain salvation)
We should not belittle our calling, whatever it may be